Anger over video of teenager allegedly tortured to death in Syria

Arab World Materials 9 June 2011 15:56 (UTC +04:00)

Protesters continued to call for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and an end to brutal government crackdowns in Syria on Thursday, as a new video showing the mutilated body of a teenager sparked outrage, DPA reported.

The video, broadcast by Al Jazeera, showed the body of 15-year-old Thamer al-Sahri, who was arrested and reportedly tortured to death for participating in an anti-government demonstration in the city of Daraa.

The footage could not be independently verified due to severe restrictions on journalists in Syria.

Hundreds of people in the town of Jeeza demonstrated against al-Sahri's death on Wednesday, a day after his body was returned to his family, Al Jazeera reported.

Al-Sahri was arrested in April along with 13-year-old Hamza al-Khateeb, whose similar death allegedly by torture at the hands of security forces sparked international outrage last month.

The Syrian government said al-Khateeb was killed by gunfire during the protest.

Navi Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights, on Thursday called on Syria to to allow in a fact-finding mission and condemned the ongoing violence, referring specifically to the case of al-Khateeb.

"The unimaginably cruel murder and mutilation of this child seems to be emblematic of the moral and legal bankruptcy of the apparent policy of crushing dissent by all available means," she said.

"It is utterly deplorable for any government to attempt to bludgeon its population into submission, using tanks, artillery and snipers," she continued.

Activists posted videos on the internet of overnight protests throughout the country. Many protesters chanted in support for the town of Jisr al-Shaghur, where a military crackdown is feared after recent violence there left 120 people dead.

Thousands of people have fled the city and nearby areas and are trying to cross the border into Turkey.

Rights groups and activists estimate that around 1,300 people have been killed in Syria since the protests began in February, though this is not verifiable.

Women and children held a demonstration in the area of Jisr al-Bayda, near the border, protesting against the use of military force against citizens, the Syrian Revolution group said online.

Syrian state television reported that armed groups had taken responsibility for the violence in Jisr al-Shaghur, and aired footage of dead policemen.

Interior minister Mohammed al-Shaar said earlier this week that the state would respond "with force" to the attacks. Troops and tanks have been advancing towards the city.

But opposition members maintain that the deaths were a result of security forces executing defecting colleagues.

Videos of soldiers who had defected confirming that they were ordered to shoot unarmed protesters and that they never saw any armed groups amongst protesters circulated on the internet on Wednesday.

The Syrian government has repeatedly blamed foreign infiltrators and terrorists for the unrest in the country.

The UN Security Council was set to discuss Thursday a draft resolution, presented by European council members, strongly condemning the Syrian government for killing unarmed protesters.

The protests initially called for greater freedoms and reforms in Syria, where political freedoms have been heavily curtailed under more than 40 years of rule by the Ba'ath Party.

After weeks of bloody government crackdowns and what are perceived to be cosmetic moves towards reform, protesters began to focus on demanding al-Assad's resignation.

Al-Assad inherited his post after his father's death in 2000.